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Pittsburgh group heading to Puerto Rico to fix animal shelter, rescue dogs

Aaron Aupperlee
| Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, 4:15 p.m.
A dog recently rescued by Barks of Hope in Rincon, Puerto Rico. (Photo from Barks of Hope)
A dog recently rescued by Barks of Hope in Rincon, Puerto Rico. (Photo from Barks of Hope)
Dogs recently rescued by Barks of Hope in Rincon, Puerto Rico. (Photo from Barks of Hope)
Dogs recently rescued by Barks of Hope in Rincon, Puerto Rico. (Photo from Barks of Hope)
Leo Roubian.
Leo Roubian.

Just this week, Leo Roubian saved a deaf, pregnant dog left on the streets of Rincón, Puerto Rico.

Next week, Roubian is sending two shipments of rescued dogs to the United States, one to New Jersey and one to Oregon.

"And there are tons more that need my help," said Roubian, who run Barks of Hope in Rincón, a city on the northwest corner of the island. "That need everybody's help."

Months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, animal shelters around the island are still flooded with pets abandoned during and after the storm. Roubian said her shelter has rescued more than 200 dogs since Maria.

FurKids, a foster-based animal rescue organization in Pittsburgh, has taken dogs from Barks of Hope for years, bringing them to Western Pennsylvania and finding them homes. Next week, five volunteers from the organization will head to Rincón to help Roubian fix up the farm Barks of Hope uses for a shelter and to rescue more dogs.

"We're very excited about them coming," Roubian said. "We need all the help we can get."

The group lands Monday and will spend a week in Rincón. Roubian said she needs help fixing a fence and stables on the farm.

"We're basically going to be trying to get the farm ready for the dogs that will be coming," Roubian said.

Barks of Hope got power and water back only two weeks ago. The group from FurKids is bringing down supplies for Barks of Hope, including food, medicine and toys for the dogs.

Josh Knauer, a volunteer with FurKids, is going to Puerto Rico with his 13-year-old son. Knauer said that as people left the island, either for good or temporarily until it recovered after the storm, some abandoned their pets.

"People would just literally open their doors and just let these dogs go," Knauer said. "These dogs that are being let go are domesticated pets. They don't know how to forage. They don't know what's going on."

Knauer said that most pets forced out onto the streets have a tough time surviving. They get hurt or sick. They starve. They become depressed.

The FurKids group is going to take rescue dogs home with them when they return. The organization has foster homes lined up for these dogs and hopes to bring more dogs to Pittsburgh as it lines up foster homes and homes that will adopt the dogs. FurKids hopes to bring 150 to 200 dogs to Pittsburgh throughout the year.

"We expect this to be the first of many trips to Puerto Rico," Knauer said.

FurKids doesn't operate a shelter but instead places rescued dogs in foster homes that care for the dogs until they are adopted. Knauer's family has fostered several dogs.

People can register to foster a dog, adopt one or donate to FurKids through its website .

On Saturday, FurKids is hosting a dog washing fundraiser from 1 to 4 p.m. at Pet Valu in Southside Works . People can drop off supplies or buy items in the store to send to Puerto Rico.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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